Ask Away: Outfield Moves, Option Rules, Sabermetric Gaps, Brett as a Boss, and More

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Ask Away: Outfield Moves, Option Rules, Sabermetric Gaps, Brett as a Boss, and More

Chicago Cubs

cat question

This is the second edition of Ask Away, and I just want to say thanks, once again, for all of the questions you’ve been sending in. Like last time, I want to remind you that even though I won’t be able to respond to every email, I am reading all of them. Even if your question doesn’t make it in the week you sent it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a chance in the future. When you do send your questions in, make sure to include your name, hometown, or other safe-for-work identifying information (if you’d like).

You can email your questions to AskAway at bleacher nation dot com.

Last week, I went with three serious/Cubs-related questions, as well as three personal ones. I liked the way that worked, so I’m going to do it again.

So here we go, ask away…

Do you think the Cubs will go through spring training without making a complementary outfield move… [Or will they rely on Matt Szczur/Albert Almora]? Eric – Schaumburg, IL

We have long suspected that the Cubs will make additional, marginal moves before the beginning of the season. Among the most likely moves, the team could add to the depth in the outfield – specifically a right-handed, defense-first option in center field. There are still plenty of options available in free agency, like Austin Jackson and, to an extent, Dexter Fowler, but both players are good bets to land starting jobs elsewhere.

Further muddying up the decision is the Cubs current bench and positional versatility. Chris Coghlan is a starting-caliber outfielder (in either corner), Javier Baez has worked on his defense in center field this winter, and both Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant can play the outfield when needed (including center field). Thanks to an expected eight-man bullpen, there’s an already-existing roster crunch – which might affect guys like Neil Ramirez and Tommy La Stella. With Matt Szczur on the 40-man roster and out of options (more on that, in a minute), it’s possible that adding another outfielder is something the Cubs will not look to do right now.

Which members of the Cubs’ 40-Man roster are out of options this spring? Brad – Davis, Illinois

Before I dive too deeply into who is/isn’t out of options this spring, let’s quickly recap what “options” really are. As soon as a minor league player is placed on a team’s 40-man roster, they are given three option years (sometimes 4, but we’ll save that, for now – short version, if a guy gets to the big leagues quickly, he probably has four option years). An option year is used in any year that a player is on the 40-man roster and spends at least 20 days in the minor leagues.

In each one of these three option years, that player’s team is allowed to send him to and from the minors as many times as they want throughout the season.

Once a player is out of option years, he must either 1) make the team’s 25-man roster or 2) make it through waivers, before being sent back to the minor leagues (and removed from the 40-man roster).The entire purpose of options is to ensure every player has the best chance of reaching the majors as possible. You can read more about options (there are many more rules and additional context) here.

All that said, it would appear the Cubs have nine players out of options this spring: Jason Hammel, Edgar Olmos, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Travis Wood, David Ross, Christian Villanueva, and Matt Szczur. Even still, there are several others that, thanks to additional rules, would not be freely optioned to the minors without their consent and/or without passing through another kind of waivers. It’s complicated. For a full breakdown of the Cubs’ 40-man roster, including option years and caveats, check out Arizona Phil’s work here at the Cub Reporter.

What do you see as the remaining gaps in the game that sabermetrics cannot yet quantify well? Matt – Richmond, Virginia

I thought this was an absolutely fantastic question, and one that changes so rapidly. Not more than two years ago, the answer would have been pitch-framing. A year ago, the answer might have been exit velocity/batted ball data. Today, both of those calls have been answered (at least significantly) and we’ve benefited greatly from the massive influx of data.

If I had to pick a gap I’d love to see closed by sabermetrics it would have to be (and there’s not exactly a name for this yet, so I’ll just describe it) a pitcher’s ability to set up a batter to induce a particular batted ball result. For example, we know there are groundball pitchers, flyball pitchers, etc…. but I’d like to be able to measure an otherwise nondescript pitcher’s ability to set a batter up early in the count, in order to achieve a groundball later, for one example. More specifically, I’d like to be able to measure this without taking the actual result into consideration (which may or may not been influenced by luck).

And now for the fun stuff, ask away…

Choose a Rat Pack (living or dead) to hang out with–one Cub, one actor/actress, one musician, and one you pick. Andy – Nashville, Tennessee

My “Rat Pack” would definitely be …

  • Chicago Cub: Anthony Rizzo (that’s a no brainer, for me).
  • Actor/Actress: Quentin Tarantino – I know he doesn’t make my entourage exceptionally cool (and that he’s technically more of a director), but I’d love to pick his brain on movies. This is my fantasy, after all, so bug off.
  • Musician: This one is pretty hard, but I’m going to go with Paul McCartney. He’s one of the most influential musicians, well, in history, and I am an enormous Beatles fan.
  • Random: Bo Burnham. Again, this isn’t the sexiest of choices, but he is one of my all-time favorite comedians and writers. His stand up special “What.” is one of my favorite things to watch, like, ever. If the question truly is about “hanging out” with anyone I want, Bo makes the cut. (Lorne Michaels and Han Solo (no, not Harrison Ford) were runners up.)

If you were stranded on an island and could pick one Cubs player, or person in the org, who would you want with you? Jacob – Illinois

If I was stranded on an island and could pick just one Cubs player, or person in the organization, to have with me, I’d definitely pick Kyle Hendricks. As a Dartmouth graduate, I’m sure he’d be the “Professor” of our Gilligan’s Island and figure out a way to get us off the island quickly.

Also, he represents my best chance of not getting killed in a fight over the last coconut.

How is Brett Taylor, as a boss? Shane (ssckelley) – Earth (I wasn’t sure exactly where, but I’m 99% positive he’s definitely from Earth)

How is Brett, as a boss? This is a tough one to answer, because he’ll be reading this before it’s posted. Instead of reviewing Brett as a boss, in general, though, I’ll talk about him solely as an editor. You see, there are two different kinds of editors: good ones and bad ones. Brett, at times, can be a bit of both. As a good editor, Brett has always allowed me to do and say just about anything I want. He has my back, makes sure I never embarrass myself and always keeps the big picture in mind. As a bad editor, Brett is constantly

So thanks again for sending in questions, and remember: you can email future questions to AskAway at bleacher nation dot com. See you next week.

[Brett: Very clever, Michael. Also, I am the best boss in the history of bosses, including Springsteen.]

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami